Tuesday, December 27

Froeliche Weinachted

I've been having a merry last few days here with my family plus Julia who came down from Rostock. Today we are off to Garmish for some skiing.

Just wanted to write a quick update and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, December 21

Happy Winter Solstice

From today on the days start getting longer instead of shorter.


That means my year abroad can only get better from here :)

But maybe I should get a mask and dance around a fire to scare off evil spirits just to be sure. You can never be too safe when it comes to evil spirits.

I need a costume like this:

These are the "Krampus", around Austria and Bavaria they come during Christmas time, or sometimes along with St. Nickolous to punish or kidnap bad children. Lindsay and I saw them at the Christmas market last weekend walking around scaring women and children. They're pretty cool. I'm sure it's some kind of hold over from pegan times. I like those kind of traditions.

My family will be here in about 12 hours! yay! and... yikes... time to clean!

Monday, December 19

but do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

Allright, so it's been quite a while. Last weekend was really boring and lazy. This weekend was crazy hectic and very fun :) This week at school was fine, lots of christmasy type lessons, and there will be more this week. I did some carol singing which was interesting considering I really can't sing, but I figured at least then the kids would feel more confident! Friday night was the big sleepover. oiy veh. Remind me to never do that again. We managed to get them to do a few organized activities, we made paper fireplaces and christmas cards, sang Rudolf, they went on a christmas scavaenger hunt for envelopes we had hid outside... except that we hid them BEFORE it snowed three inches!! But then we ordered Pizza and it ended up taking like two hours to get there and things kind of disolved into chaos at that point. I manged to play dreidle with a smaller group of boys. Much of the evening they played cops and robbers all over the school building with the lights out. At least they weren't killing each other. We also decorated ginger bread men, most of the boys ended up breaking them or stabbing then with toothpicks and putting red icing on them for blood. boys will be boys.... Finally we wachted the Grinch (the new one) and went to bed. The other teachers had to get up every hour pretty much all night to go in and yell at them to be quiet and go to bed. I'm just glad I didn't have to be the responsible one!

Saturday morning I made lots and lots of scrambled eggs and bacon for the little beasts.... then I left and just made quick stop at my room before heading to Nuemburg to meet a bunch of other Fulbrighters there for the Biggest (or possibly oldest) christmas market in Germany. It was PACKED. Seriously, could barely even move. We were only there for a couple hours and then I went back with them to Regensburg. I was planning on coming back to Munich saturday night, but I didn't end up making the last train so I just crashed with them in Matt's tiny little room on the floor.... good times. It's always fun getting together with them all and seeing other americans my age doing the same thing, comparing lesson plans and experiences and everything. A very nice bunch of people. Lindsay came back to Munich with me Sunday morning and we went with Katie to most of the big christmas markets in Munich. We hit up the Tollwood winter festival, the central Marienplatz market, the Medival market and the Artsy Schwabinger market. Whew. Then we went to the Irish Pub Katie works at and ate and sat around for a long long time and watched some really bad German kereoke.

I'm dangerously close to being all Christmased out... good thing it's only a week away!

Lindsay left this morning and now i have a couple hours to relax and possibly clean before I have a meeting for all Fulbrighters in Bavaria.

OOh! Gilmor Girls is on... forget cleaning! I'll do it sometime before my family gets here... on THURSDAY! ahh! so soon! so much to do! I really hope everything goes well... I don't really have everything worked out yet, like reservations and stuff. I'm a little nervouse. But I think it will all be ok. As long as we're together, that's the important part right?. I'm excited to go into the mountains and go skiing after christmas. I'll finally see the alps close up.

And then Eric will come and we'll have New Years together and it will be wonderful.

EEEEEEEE so much going on and so much to look forward to. I'm begining to think that things are never really going to settle down this year. There's always traveling and visitors and crazyness. Oh well. It's fun for a year :)

Saturday, December 10


Today I have to do NOTHING AT ALL until baby sitting at 7pm. I had/still have a lot of good intentions for the day. Like:
-cleaning my room so I can stop falling over the air mattress to get from my bed to my computer
-grocery shopping so I don't have to eat nothing but spagetti and cereal tomorrow,
-crocheting the scarf I've been working on for two months,
-reading the book we're going to talk about in class on monday,
-planning some stellar lessons instead of coming up with something ten min before each class next week,
-writting christmas cards
-or at the very least updating my blog.

Ta da! guess what the first thing on that list that's getting done today is? right.
it's 2:10 and I have yet to put pants on. Yessssss.
Eh, I still have like four hours, I can do a couple of those things yet. And hey, it's saturday.

So... update time.
Where did the week go?
In school I did lessons on job interviews, some everyday situation role plays, some pictionary with English idioms, and gave a little talk on my personal experience of being German in America, which also turned into a little bit of being American in Germany. I told them about my family history and my teacher wanted me to talk about what it means to be german in the US... the problem is that something like 40% of Americans have German heritage, so it's not exactly something rare and exciting. My family is closer to our German roots than most, since I'm only second generation American. But still, my mom and her siblings didn't learn German at home and besides a few traditions like St. Nickolous day and familie recipies, we don't exactly stick out from the rest of the population. I told them there are some German towns in the US, like New Ulm. And that lots of cities have Oktoberfest celebrations. Which they think is funny, because Oktoberfest is only a Munich thing, even other German cities don't have Oktoberfest celebrations. We eat Bratwurst and say Gesundheit when someone sneezes... but that's about the extent of Germaness it would seem. I explained that after the War being German was not exactly popular, so Germans in the US weren't big on showing pride for their heritage or speaking the language. It makes sense. but things have changed. I still cared about my heritage enough to decide to learn the language, and I have liked the country enough to keep coming back and to live and work here for a year, but I certainly don't feel like I belong here because of my roots, or like this is my country or nationality. I'm proud of my German history now as well, but I'm still American, through and through, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Here's one good reason why... all that "PC" stuff that we make fun of at times and that Europeans think in completely rediculous, well, now I appreciate and understand it. Bavaria is a Catholic state. You won't find any German equivilant of "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" around here. It's all about Christmas and nothing else. I find it overwhelming and I'm catholic! One of the families I'm babysitting for is Jewish and I talked to their Mom a bit last week about being Jewish here. Her son's school (an international english speaking school by the way) is doing a Christmas market fundraiser. She's trying to be understanding that she's in Bavaria, but is bothered when they call her to ask her to volunteer for something which is not her Holdiay, especially asking her to voluteer on a Saturday, which she can't do. There is not a very big Jewish population here anymore, there are Jews, just not a lot and I have been suprised by how little contact Germans have with Jewish culture (or any other culture for that matter).

At one of my schools I'm helping to plan an "English Christmas Sleepover" for seventh grade boys. The plan is to spend the evening speaking english and learning about American and British Christmas traditions. Great. But, the thing is, something like that would never happen in America to begin with at a public school. I told the teachers this and that in American schools around the holidays we always learn about Hanukkah and Kwanza and even Native American winter solstice tradiontions along with Christmas, even at my catholic elementary school. I think most americans have some idea of what Hanukkah is even if they don't know the whole story. Here, however, they have absolutely no idea. I suggested that we incorporate some kind of Hanukkah activity into the sleepover, learning about the holiday and then maybe playing the dreidel or something. The teachers were a little taken aback I think, and uncertain of what the kids would make of soemthing like that. They also know pretty much nothing at all about Hanukkah themselves. Had never heard of a dreidel, or manorah, nothing, they don't learn about other religions at all. But anyway, they agreed that I could be in charge of finding something Hanukkah related to do at the sleepover, so I'm looking for ideas and will ask the family I baby sit for also. Jewish items are pretty hard to come by in Munich, so I'll have to be a little creative I think, but it should be interesting. The sleepover is next Friday, I'll let you know how it goes.
So anyway, the moral of the story is, even if being "PC" can get out of hand or seem stupid in the US, I like that we are sensitive to other peoples religions and cultures and that we actually have people from other religions and cultures in the US and that schools care about teaching kids about other cultures and traditions. Germany is still lacking when it comes to multiculturalism. Despite the large Muslim population I think it will be a long time before they are teaching German school kids about Islamic holidays and traditions. but that's a whole other can of worms.

Hooray for the melting pot/salad bowl/mosaic that is American culture and multiculturalism. German Americans and Jewish Amercans and everything else. It's not perfect, obviously there is still a lot of discrimination and self segregation, but I feel like a lot of intelligent open minded people are making an effort and that it is generally recognized that valuing each individual culture and still treating everyone eaqually despite their cultural background is something to strive for. I don't get that feeling in Germany. Maybe all us Fulbrighters will eventually make a difference :) There are some parts of American culture and idealism that I don't mind trying to spread to the rest of the world, as long as we do it in the right way. I'll do my part by playing dreidel with 20 some German seventh graders :)

Monday, December 5

I <3 Berlin

So... where the heck have I been the last few days? I'm sure you've all been worried sick...

Well, Phil was headed to Berlin all by his lonesome after Munich so he begged and pleaded and twisted my arm and eventually I gave in and decided to go with him. Ha! Actually the mere suggestion of escaping the sometimes stiffling gemuehtlichkeit in Munich for a weekend to be a tourist and see Caroline in the coolest city ever was all I needed to pack up a back pack and meet Phil at the train station after class on Thursday. I love Berlin! Love it! It's just so....dynamic, raw, exciting, romantic, new, old, everything and anything

We ended up staying at a hostel because Caroline's roomate's boyfriend was also in town and for some crazy reason they wanted some privacy or something.... ;-P But it was a very nice hostel and kinda fun to stay in a hostel again, it's been a while. I took Phil to my favoritest tourist sites in Berlin, the Pergamon, the TV tower and the Reichstag... all in the first day! It was really really cold, but no matter, fun all the same. Caroline came with us to the Reichstag and then we went to a little dinner party at her place with some of her Fulbrighter friends. Lots of wine and good times.

Saturday we went to the new Jewish Museum which is really really good I think. The building itself is awesome. Designed by Daniel Liebeskind, very powerful. The exhibit is really good, covering the entire history of Jews in Germany and in Berlin. I liked that it didn't focus on the Holocaust. I read quite a bit about Jews in Germany for my thesis last year. It was nice to see a musuem with information about the long history Jewish diasphora (sp?) and a contemporary section on what has happened to German Jews since and what it means to be a German Jew today. Lots of films and museums focus on the Holocaust experience, but don't show what happened after...there are still Jewish people in Germany. Of course remembering the Holocaust is important, I was just at a concentration camp last week after all, but it's also important to not let that be the whole of the connection between Germaness and Jewishness, it's important to be able to move forward as well.

We also went to the New National Gallery where they had two special exhibits going. We went to one by contemporary German artist Jorg Immendorff, it was pretty cool. Very political, really interestingly laid out, very German and very appropriatly located in Berlin.

After that Phil and I pretty much crashed. Went back to the hostel and didn't get farther away than accross the street for dinner. I warned Phil that mexican in Germany would probably not be good...

Phil left early Sunday morning for Amsterdam and will be heading home this week. It was fun to travel at bit with him, I'm glad we reconected. It's nice to see high school friends who've turned out to be such nice considerate mature interesting people... not that all my friends weren't all those things in high school... but you know what I mean. It was a bit strange being with someone all done with their european experience and looking forward to going home when I'm only like 1/3 of the way through mine... which is actually really far, I can't believe it's going so fast, and yet can't believe I won't be home again until July... that's a long long time....

Anyway, so I kinda bummed around Sunday, went over to Caroline's, chit chatted about life and ate lunch with her and then went out and wandered around Alexanderplatz, the Christmas markets, and some of the surrounding streets for a little bit before it was time to go see Caroline's German Synchro depute... that's right, I went to a synchro show in Berlin, and it was super :) Synchro shows are always guarenteed to be velveata level cheesy and really really fun. Caroline was excellent as a swan in their production of Cinderella and I'm glad I got to go see it. After we went to yet another dinner party at another Fulbrighters house. Apparently this is all they do in Berlin. It was very nice and I ate lots and lots and then some peanut butter cookies- yay americans and imported american baking products! They all have really cool big apartments in east berlin that actually have some charactor, as opposed to my steril little white box in the suburbs, and they're probably all paying lower rent than I am.... I'm a tiny bit jelouse in case you couldn't tell.

So yeah, that was my lovely weekend in Berlin, I'm quite glad I went. And it actually wasn't so bad coming back to munich this time because I had presents waiting for me! There was a package from Alexis on my doorstep when I got back, it was like the next best thing to actually havinga person to welcome me home. Thanks Alexis, I love it and I'm listening to the Chistmas CD right now and I'm really excited about the new Nickel Creek CD because the old one is one of my favorites to listen to on trains :-D
Also when I got back I had FOUR windows to open in my advent calendar which meant four pieces of chocolate all at once. mmm.

This week I actually have a fair bit of lesson planning to do, yikes. Next weekend I don't have plans, probably some baby sitting or something- definitely need to make and not spend money for a while, the weekend after that I'm going to Nuemburg and the weekend after that my parents are coming and it's Christmas!!! Wee. I love living in Europe and going on spontaneous weekend trips.

You should all go out and rent "Wings of Desire" right now because it's one of my favorite German movies and it's kind of about Berlin, and does a good job at capturing the city back when the wall was up. go watch it. You should also rend Goodbye Lenin, also good and also about and in Berlin. I would recoment some books by the Jewish German authors I studied but the ones I read don't all have translations....